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Return to sender

State leaders in Virginia learned last month that misdirected mail can be extremely costly.

Shortly before the state's commission on early-childhood programs was disbanded by the legislature, the chairman drafted a letter to officials in Washington refusing a $750,000 grant that would have paid for child-care services for hundreds of poor children in the state.

Soon after the letter became public, media reports chronicled low-income parents' search for day-care alternatives and state-funded child-care centers' worries about meeting their budgets.

The chairman's letter charged that the programs pushed a liberal agenda, a position Virginia officials stood alone in taking.

But the stand was not made on principle. It was taken by mistake. State leaders said the letter should never have been sent. The document should have served as a recommendation to the governor and not a reflection of state policy.

"It was an administrative mix-up," said Julie Overy, Gov. George F. Allen's spokeswoman. The state has already reapplied for the grant.

The $2.5 billion question

Interest groups routinely use surveys to question candidates for office, but the Minnesota finance commissioner recently turned the tables, asking a few questions of her own.

The Minnesota Education Association's questionnaire for statewide candidates asks if they support increasing the state's limit on per-pupil spending, if they want higher funding for state colleges, if they would advocate smaller classes, and if they would vote to increase retirement benefits for school employees.

Laura M. King, the finance commissioner, wrote the union's leaders asking if they realized that candidates answering yes to all of the group's questions were also in favor of $2.5 billion in new state spending.

"State taxes would have to increase by nearly 14 percent in order to pay for all your proposals," Ms. King wrote.

The union, however, held fast to its contention that changes--some costly--are needed. The MEA tried to get the last word, arguing that less money will not produce better results.

As a way of saying where the money for education increases should come from, the union has endorsed a sales tax on clothing and called for state tax reforms to reduce the burden of local property taxes.


Vol. 16, Issue 02

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